It all looked so promising. Cinemas around the world have been starting to reopen – or at least, announcing plans to do so – just in time for the eagerly awaited, twice-delayed release of ‘Tenet’ on August 12. But Christopher Nolan’s summer blockbuster has now been removed from the release schedule altogether, thanks to the ongoing spike in Covid-19 cases in the US.
‘We will share a new 2020 release date imminently for “Tenet”, Christopher Nolan’s wholly original and mind-blowing feature,’ said Warner Bros chairman Toby Emmerich in a statement. ‘We are not treating [it] like a traditional global day-and-date release, and our upcoming marketing and distribution plans will reflect that.’
Beyond the fact that ‘Tenet’ won’t now come out across the globe on the same day, it’s hard to know what Warner Bros means by it not being treated as a ‘traditional global day-and-date release’. Will it come out in Asia and Europe ahead of the US? Hard as it is to imagine for a Nolan blockbuster, is the studio contemplating putting the film on US streaming services alongside a theatrical release outside America?
There’s a lot to consider here: Christopher Nolan’s long-standing support for cinemas, one of the key reasons ‘Tenet’ remained on the summer slate for as long as it did; the perils of online piracy and, to a lesser extent, the proliferation of plot spoilers; and the financial wellbeing of cinemas, both multiplex and independent, as they navigate a release schedule bereft of big Hollywood films.
Warner Bros also has ‘Wonder Woman 1984’ (October 2) and ‘Dune’ (December 18) still scheduled for 2020. ‘Our goals throughout this process have been to ensure the highest odds of success for our films while also being ready to support our theatre partners with new content as soon as they could safely reopen,’ said Emmerich. ‘We’re grateful for the support we’ve received from exhibitors and remain steadfast in our commitment to the theatrical experience around the world. Unfortunately, the pandemic continues to proliferate, causing us to re-evaluate our release dates.’
For cinemas, the lack of big Hollywood releases spells more financial uncertainty ahead. ‘We won’t reopen fully until a big release is confirmed,’ says the director of one UK independent cinema. ‘The US studios need to throw us a bone soon.’